Beer Labels

Here's some of the beer labels I've made for the last few brews I did.

Un-Bee-lievably Excited

Look, look it's Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Bee!!!

I am terribly excited. I went to see Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in Chapters. I thought I didn't know Amanda Palmer but I do, she's in Dresden Dolls and she covers Radiohead songs quite wonderfully on ukulele. I have a ukulele which I'm rubbish at and discovered her while searching for people who can play it. She's wonderful and I now must go buy her album having heard her sing.

Amanda and Neil have a book called Who Killed Amanda Palmer? coming out soon. It's a series of photos of Amanda dead with a story to accompany each photo. Neil read four stories and they were great. I won't attempt a review.

There was a massive crowd there, it seems Neil is popular among teenage emo girls. Luckily I got there early enough and got a good spot. This also meant I got my book signed without too much of a wait. I presented Neil with the bee. He said nobody had ever crocheted him a bee before. He signed my copy of American Gods with Laura -Believe-. Amanda seemed to like the bee she said he had a very cute expression.

Following recommendations from many people most recently The Beer Nut I picked up a copy of the first in the Sandman series. It's on the reading list when I finish Stardust and The Watchmen. So next week then.

To Bee Or Not To Bee?

That is the question. Tomorrow one of my favourite authors Neil Gaiman is appearing in Chapters bookshop on Parnell Street to do a reading and signing. I will be going along. I've read nearly all his books and love them. I am rationing out reading the last of his books and The Sandman series though as I don't want to run out of new Gaiman books to read.

Neil is here to promote the film of his novel Coraline which is out this weekend in Ireland. It looks amazing, everything in it was hand made and even the costumes were knitted by hand in miniature by Althea Crome. The Graveyard Book came out recently as well.

I decided I'd be extra nerdy and make something to give to him. Hopefully I'll get the chance to. I got the idea to crochet a bee inspired by Coraline. Neil keeps bees so that's where that idea comes from. The bee has mismatched button eyes which if you've read Coraline you'll understand. I've never been quite as comfortable with buttons since I read that book. Anyway here is the punk button bee. I'll post back tomorrow evening if I manage to get the bee to Neil.

A Cider Conversion

Today I stopped off at McHugh's off license in Kilbarack today on the way back from walking the dog on the beach. The dog loved the sand and playing with other dogs aspect of the beach but he wasn't keen on the water side of things.

We got a bottle of Duche de Longueville Cidre de Recoltant single varietal cider. I usually don't like cider and have never had one that I thought was great until today. I have obviously been drinking the wrong ciders. This stuff was absolutely lovely.

It's from Normandy. I've been in France many times and know that they keep a lot of the nicest wine for themselves. So this probably isn't even the best cider you can get. I can see a trip cycling around Normandy touring the cider producers in my future.

So does anyone have any recommendations for other great ciders? And if anyone says Bulmers/Magners I will be very angry and you wouldn't like to see me angry.

Black Abbey Dubbel

Next month I'm going to Brussels, Belgium for a long weekend. A conversation at a home brew tasting session led to a crew from Irish Craft Brewer deciding to go to Cantillon's public brew day on March the 7th. The flights are booked and I'm very excited. I've only passed through Belgium before and I can't wait to sample all the wonderful beers in Brussels. For a brewing nerd like me a day watching a traditional brewery like Cantillon do it's thing sounds great.

So to celebrate I decided my next brew would be a Belgian style Dubbel.

There's lots of malt character in a Dubbel so this would have to be an all grain brew to get the taste I want. I had some Belgian trappist style ale yeast and some Caramunch malt. So I was actually able to use the right ingredients and not substitute some of them for once.


3.4kg Maris Otter Malt
500g Caramunch Malt
450g Crystal Malt
450g Light Brown Sugar (added at end of boil)

60 minutes: 30g Perle 7.1%AA
15 minutes: Rind of 1/2 an orange
2 tsp Coriander Seed
1 tsp Irish Moss

Yeast: Safbrew S33 (2 packs rehydrated before pitching)

Mashed at 67 degrees celsius for an hour

The wort volume was about 20 liters with a mash run off gravity of 1.052. My brewing calculator says that is what I should get if I have an efficiency of about 75% which seems reasonable to me. After the boil I had about 18 liters but the gravity seemed pretty high so I topped it up to about 20 liters. The original gravity was 1.060 so it should turn out nice and strong.

Traditionally there isn't much hop aroma in a Dubbel so there are only bittering hops in this recipe. It felt a bit odd not to put hops in at the end so I decided some spices might be good. It put in a little grated orange rind and some coriander. These shouldn't be noticeable in the final brew but should add something in the background.

I used Safbrew S33 yeast which according to the website is good for trappist style beers. I'm fermenting it in a warm room upstairs with a sleeping bag around it so that hopefully it'll have a nice fruity estery taste.

I'm going to call this one Black Abbey Dubbel. As I mentioned before I lived beside the Black Abbey in Kilkenny and since many of the beers in Belgium are still traditionally made my monks I thought it suited. I can always dream of running the Black Abbey Brewery one day.

The brew day was about 6 hours from start to finish which was quicker than the last time. I think I'm really getting the hang of the all grain brewing. The results are worth it too.

Appetite for Destruction

I got the book An Appetite for Ale by Fiona Beckett and Will Beckett a while ago. It's a book about beer and food, it's also got great recipes that use beer, recommendations on what food goes with what beer and a section on beer and cheese.

I've made a few recipes from this book and last week I made the best one yet, Carbonnade of beef with Orval. Some friends came over to watch Ireland playing and winning against France in the rugby and we ate this after wards. It was very tasty, rich and warming. We had some Samuel Adams Boston Lager with it. I know we should have had Orval but I used my last bottle making the stew.

A word of warning though, blogging can be dangerous. I decided I should get a photo of the stew for the blog and so set up the photo above with the book behind the pot. Unfortunately the book slipped into the gas ring which was on and the book went on fire. I was lucky and it went out easily without having to wet the book. Only the edges of a few pages were scorched. I felt a bit silly then and learned my lesson.

Oh and my blog has made the long list for the Irish Blog Awards. I'm very pleased about it.

The Session 24: A Tripel For Two

This month over at Musings Over A Pint the session is being held on the subject of A Tripel For Two. They must be getting into the valentines spirit already. I hate valentine's day, it's all too contrived for me, but sharing a beer you love with someone you love now that sounds ok to me. I'd have to pick my favourite tripel Maredsous 10 to share. It's one of my favourite beers, it has all the things that Belgian beers do well. Sweet, strong and spicy with good yeast character.
Of course I'd share it with my lovely husband over a nice home cooked dinner.

This reminds me, I've been planning my next brew for a while now. It's going to be a Belgian dubbel so it fits in with this post. I'm hoping to get it done next week. I have some nice caramunch malt that will combine with crystal and a dose of sugar to give a strong sweet malty beer. I even have the right yeast this time, some Safbrew s33. I'll ferment this in the sitting room by the radiator for some warmth. My fermenting room is pretty cold, I think it's too cold and my beers have been lacking yeast character. This is fine if you don't want yeast character but in a Belgian dubbel I want that fruity estery taste. It'll be an all grain brew so it will take all day but it's worth it.

Winter Warming Needed

Back at the start of December it was pretty cold so I brewed Westley's Winter Warmer in honour of the arrival of our new dog Westley.

Well such a warming spicy beer is needed at the moment. It's been snowing for the past week which is really unusual for Ireland and especially for Dublin.

Westley loved the snow. We went out for a walk and everyone was out building snowmen and having snowfights, kids and adults alike. Dave decided to roll a big snowball. Westley decided Dave was making this for him to dig into. I stood there laughing. When we got back in we opened a bottle of the winter warmer. It was spicy, strong and sweet. Perfect for this weather.